The Art of Hearing Heartbeats Won My Heart

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From the Baochi Book Collection

From the Baochi Book Collection

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a big fan of love stories. This is because I find most romances to be inauthentic and artificial. That said, there are some romantic novels that make for great stories and don’t drip with sappiness. Gone With the Wind is one such novel. And now I’m adding Jan-Phillipp Sendker’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats to my list of great love stories.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, set in Burma, centers on the relationship between a Burmese man and woman in the 1950s, when both are in their late teens. The novel begins in present day New York, when the man — who has become a prominent lawyer married to an American woman — disappears mysteriously. When the man’s adult daughter, Julia, discovers a love letter from her father to an unknown Burmese woman, she decides to travel to Burma to investigate in the hopes of locating her father. 

In Burma, Julia meets a poor but content old man who claims to know her father, Tin Win, and his long-lost love, Mi Mi. Julia is at first skeptical but soon enough, she becomes engrossed in the stranger’s tale. In the process, she learns about a side of her father that he never revealed to her or anyone in the family.

Through the old Burmese man, we learn of the pure and unflagging love between Tin Win and Mi Mi and how they come to be separated physically but never spiritually.

Author Sendker’s prose is lovely and his story about true love doesn’t ring false at all. It does read a bit like a fairy tale rather than a “realistic” romance.

Here are a couple of passages in the novel that I found particularly lovely:

…I am not referring to those outbursts of passion that drive us to do and say things we will later regret, that delude us into thinking we cannot live without a certain person, that set us quivering with anxiety at the mere possibility we might ever lose that person — a feeling that impoverishes rather than enriches us because we long to possess what we cannot, to hold on to what we cannot…I speak of a love that brings sight to the blind. Of a love stronger than fear. I speak of a love that breathes meaning into life, that defies the natural laws of deterioration, that causes us to flourish, that knows no bounds. I speak of the triumph of the human spirit over selfishness and death.

My father…seemed to think anyone was capable of anything, or at least he wouldn’t exclude the possibility just because he thought he knew the person. And he insisted that this did not represent the worldview of an embittered pessimist. On the contrary, he had said. It would be much worse to expect good from other people, only to be disappointed when they didn’t measure up to our high expectations. That would lead to resentment and contempt for humanity.

2 Comments

  1. Angela Bissada says:

    I just ordered it off amazon!

    Angela Bissada, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist (PSY 15156) 16133 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1235 Encino, CA. 91436 T: 818-489-9820 F: 818-990-3123 angela@bissada.net

    THIS MESSAGE IS INTENDED ONLY FOR THE USE OF THE INDIVIDUAL OR ENTITY TO WHICH IT IS ADDRESSED AND MAY CONTAIN INFORMATION THAT IS PRIVILEGED, CONFIDENTIAL AND/OR EXEMPT FROM DISCLOSURE UNDER APPLICABLE LAW. IF THE READER OF THIS MESSAGE IS NOT THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED THAT ANY COPYING, DISTRIBUTION OR DISSEMINATION OF THIS INFORMATION IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED THIS COMMUNICATION IN ERROR, PLEASE NOTIFY DR. BISSADA IMMEDIATELY AND RETURN THE ORIGINAL COMMUNICATION TO THE ADDRESS ABOVE VIA U.S. MAIL. THANK YOU.

    From: The Baochi Banter <comment-reply@wordpress.com> Reply-To: The Baochi Banter <comment+r38wzafie39zj-hd0bxlm1n@comment.wordpress.com> Date: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 11:17 AM To: “Angela Bissada, Psy.D.” <angela@bissada.net> Subject: [New post] The Art of Hearing Heartbeats Won My Heart

    Baochi posted: ” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a big fan of love stories. This is because I find most romances to be inauthentic and artificial. That said, there are some romantic novels that make for great stories and don’t drip with sappiness. “

  2. Rabbit says:

    Julia Win returns to narrate the tale of her second trip to Burma in a story that uses the same techniques – the intermingling of Julia’s first person account, long tales of the past related to her by other characters, and letters – employed in the earlier book.
    http://postmoderndeconstructionmadhouse.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-well-tempered-heart-by-jan-phillip.html#.Uu4wfj1dXxA

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